A Louisiana Motorcycle Accident Lawyer’s Guide to Motorcycle Accidents in New Orleans
What to do If You’ve Been Involved in a Motorcycle Accident
Generally, if the accident involves a death, personal injury, or property damage above a specified amount, you must notify the police, who will usually make a written report of the incident. If possible, you should take photos of any injuries or damage to your motorcycle. Do your best to get all contact and insurance information from any other motorists, passengers, or pedestrians involved. Be sure to write down the make, model, and license plate numbers of all vehicles involved, as well. Do not leave the scene of the accident before the police arrive, because criminal charges could result from this, and because fault and liability have not been determined yet.
You should contact a qualified attorney as soon as possible to understand whether you have a valid claim for damages. Issues like compliance with traffic laws, motor vehicle regulations, medical treatment, and liability, all are best understood by an experienced motorcycle and car accident attorney. He or she will review your case, determine who may have been at fault, and help you pursue compensation if your accident was not a result of your negligence or unsafe operation of your motorcycle. Ideally, your lawyer will try to help you avoid a court appearance if possible, although it may not always be so. If you do have to go to court, your attorney will prepare you. If you have a motorcycle accident resulting from damaged roadways, confusing signs, faulty traffic lights, or roads that are covered with debris, you should probably hire a motorcycle accident attorney to help you file a claim against the jurisdiction where the accident occurred.
If you are contacted by an adjuster from the other side’s insurance company, it’s important to not give them an interview. Similarly, don’t rush to make repairs on a bike until the damage has been documented, as you may be entitled to compensation for these damages. Keep a record of all of the expenses that have been incurred due to the accident, including repairs, doctor visits, and rental charges for another vehicle that you have to use because your bike is being repaired, as well as any time that had been missed from work because of the accident.
When to Contact an Attorney After a Motorcycle Accident
Being involved in a motorcycle accident can be a traumatic event, where a rider can sustain significant injuries. If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident as a result of another driver’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation to cover your injuries, any property damage, lost wages as well as any pain and suffering you may be experiencing. It is vital to contact an experienced New Orleans motorcycle accident injury attorney to review the details or your specific case and determine the best way to move forward and ensure that you are treated fairly and honestly by the insurance company, and all parties (including your lawyer) involved in your claim.
If you’ve been injured, know the 18 mistakes that can damage your auto or motorcycle accident claim in Louisiana. Additionally, it’s important to be aware of the secrets that insurance adjuster won’t tell you about your claim.
Who Is Legally Responsible (or Liable) for a Motorcycle Accident?
Like most motor vehicle accident cases, motorcycle accident claims are almost always governed by the legal concept of negligence. Louisiana law employs a doctrine known as “comparative fault” in negligence cases. This means that liability will be spread to everyone who contributed to accident, in equal proportion to their proven fault. Where a motorcycle is concerned, a common example of comparative fault might be where the motorcycle’s headlamp, brake light, or tail light is out, especially if the accident happened at night.
In addition, the state’s helmet law may play a large part in whether a motorcycle accident victim can recover damages for any head or neck injuries. Someone who has suffered such an injury in an accident on Louisiana roads, but was not wearing a helmet, may not be able to recover full damages for that injury, even if the driver of the other vehicle was at fault.
Motorcycle Accidents Statistics in the United States
In 2014, there were about 8.4 million motorcycles on the American road. Motorcycle accidents, though not necessarily more frequent than other types of accidents, are more likely to result in serious injury or death. Here are some statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) report:
- In 2015, 4,976 people died in motorcycle crashes, up 8.3 percent from 4,594 in 2014.
- In 2014, motorcyclists were 27 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a crash per vehicle mile traveled, and almost five times more likely to be injured.
- In 2013, motorcyclists accounted for 14 percent of all traffic fatalities, 4 percent of all people injured, 18 percent of all occupants (driver and passenger) fatalities, and 4 percent of all occupants injured. Of the 4,668 motorcyclists killed in traffic crashes, 94 percent (4,399) were riders and 6 percent (269) were passengers.
- Older motorcyclists account for more than half of all motorcyclist fatalities. NHTSA data show that in 2014, 54 percent of motorcyclists killed in crashes were age 40 or over, compared with 47 percent in 2005. The number of motorcyclists age 40 and over killed in crashes increased by 14 percent from 2005 to 2014. In contrast, fatalities among all motorcyclists rose less than 1 percent. NHTSA says that the average age of motorcycle riders killed in crashes was 42 in 2014, compared with 39 in 2005.
- Twenty-five percent of motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes in 2013 were riding their vehicles without valid motorcycle licenses at the time of the collisions, while only 13 percent of passenger vehicle drivers in fatal crashes did not have valid licenses.
- In 2013, motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were found to have the highest percentage of alcohol-impaired drivers than any other vehicle type (27% for motorcycles, 23% for passenger cars, 21% for light trucks, and 2% for large trucks).
- In 2013, 19 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico required helmet use by all motorcyclists. In 28 States, helmet use was required for only a subset of motorcyclists (typically, motorcyclists under age 18), and 3 States (Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire) did not require helmet use for motorcyclists of any age.
- NHTSA estimates that helmets saved 1,630 motorcyclists’ lives in 2013, and that 715 more could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets.
Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents
Motorcycle accidents have many causes. They include:
Crashes involving motorcycles and other vehicles account for 56 percent of motorcycle accidental deaths; 78 percent of the time, the other vehicle strikes the motorcycle from the front.
Cars Making Left-Hand Turns
42 percent of all collisions involving a motorcycle and a car occur when a car is making a left-hand turn and the motorcycle is: 1) going straight through an intersection 2) passing the car, or 3) trying to overtake the car.
Lane splitting occurs when a motorcycle drives between two lanes of stopped or slowly-moving cars. Accidents may be due to: 1) the close proximity of the cars to the motorcycle 2) the reduced space the motorcycle has to maneuver, or 3) the fact that cars don’t anticipate that any vehicle will by passing them in slowed or stopped traffic.
Speeding and Alcohol Use
About half of the accidents involving a single motorcycle are caused by speeding or alcohol use. And because motorcycles don’t provide much protection to the rider, these crashes are more likely to result in death or serious injury.
Collisions Between Motorcycles and Fixed Objects
Motorcycles colliding with fixed objects (trees, buildings, walls, guard rails, parked vehicles, etc.) accounts for 25 percent of motorcyclist deaths.
Due to the smaller size and less stable nature of the motorcycle, potholes, dead animals, slick pavement conditions, uneven heights between lanes, railroad tracks, and other irregularities or unexpected objects in the road pose a serious safety threat to motorcycles.
High-performance motorcycles, although comprising a small portion of the overall number of motorcycles on the road, account for a disproportionate number of motorcycle accidents. These motorcycles fall into two categories: supersport motorcycles and sport motorcycles. Supersport motorcycles are built on racing platforms that are modified for highway use. Because these motorcycles are lightweight and have high-horsepower engines, they can go extremely fast — up to 160 mph. Most supersport motorcycle riders are under the age of 30, another contributing factor to the higher accident rate since younger motorcycle riders tend to be less cautious and take more risks than older riders. Sport motorcycles are similar to supersport motorcycles, but have a lower power to weight ratio. Drivers of sport motorcycles tend to be under the age of 34. The death rate among riders of supersport motorcycle accidents is four times that of riders of conventional motorcycles, like cruisers, standards, and touring motorcycles. The riders of the more conventional motorcycles are also older –usually age 40 and above. The death rate among riders of sport motorcycles is two times that of conventional motorcycle riders.
Motorcycle Laws in Louisiana
Laws regarding motorcycle operation vary from state to state and generally cover such things as licenses, helmet use, eye protection, yearly inspections, riding, lane sharing, speed, daytime headlight use, and blood alcohol content (BAC) level.
In Louisiana, Revised Statute 32:51 requires:
No person shall operate, or permit to be operated, any motor vehicle upon the highways of this state unless it is registered with the commissioner, the license tax is paid thereon, and it is operated in accordance with the provisions of this Chapter and other laws of this state.
In Louisiana, RS 32:52 requires that a motorcyclist must be licensed:
No person shall drive or operate any vehicle upon any highway within this state unless and until he has been issued a license to so do as required by the laws of this state nor shall any person permit or allow any other person to drive or operate any vehicle owned or controlled by him upon highways of this state unless and until such other person has been issued a license to so do as required by the laws of this state.
Motorcycle Operation Requirements
Louisiana statute RS 32:58 requires operating a motorcycle in a safe manner:
- Any person operating a motor vehicle (including motorcycles) on the public roads of this state shall drive in a careful and prudent manner, so as not to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person. Failure to drive in such a manner shall constitute careless operation.
Operating Under the Influence
Louisiana statute RS 14:98 stipulates the legal BAC level and proscribed drug use:
(1) The crime of operating a vehicle while intoxicated is the operating of any motor vehicle, aircraft, watercraft, vessel, or other means of conveyance when:
(a) The operator is under the influence of alcoholic beverages; or
(b) The operator’s blood alcohol concentration is 0.08 percent or more by weight based on grams of alcohol per one hundred cubic centimeters of blood; or
(c) The operator is under the influence of any controlled dangerous substance listed in Schedule I, II, III, IV, or V as set forth in R.S. 40:964; or
(d)(i) The operator is under the influence of a combination of alcohol and one or more drugs which are not controlled dangerous substances and which are legally obtainable with or without a prescription.
Louisiana law RS 32:61 stipulates the following speed limits:
No person shall operate a vehicle on any highway of this state in excess of fifty-five miles per hour, unless a lower maximum speed is posted on the highway, except as follows:
(1) No person shall operate a vehicle on any interstate or controlled access highway of this state in excess of seventy miles per hour.
(2) No person shall operate a vehicle on any multi-lane divided highway of this state which has partial or no control of access in excess of sixty-five miles per hour.
Prudent Operation of a Motor Vehicle
Louisiana statute RS 32:64 stipulates the following regarding prudent operation of a vehicle:
No person shall drive a vehicle on the highway within this state at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and potential hazards then existing, having due regard for the traffic on, and the surface and width of, the highway, and the condition of the weather, and in no event at a speed in excess of the maximum speeds established by this Chapter or regulation of the department made pursuant thereto.
Motorcycle Riding Laws
Louisiana statute RS 32:191 deals with laws regarding Motorcycle Riding:
A person operating a motorcycle shall ride only upon the permanent and regular seat attached thereto. Such operator shall not carry any other person or child nor shall any other person or child ride on a motorcycle unless such motorcycle is designed to carry more than one person, in which event a passenger may ride upon the permanent and regular seat if designed for two persons, or upon another seat firmly attached to the rear or side on the motorcycle.
A person shall ride upon a motorcycle only while sitting astride the seat, facing forward, with not more than one leg on each side of the motorcycle.
No person shall operate a motorcycle while carrying any package, bundle, or other article which prevents him from keeping both hands on the handlebars.
No operator shall carry any person or child nor shall any person or child ride in a position that will interfere with the operation or control of the motorcycle or the view of the operator.
No operator shall carry or transport an infant or child on a motorcycle who is required to be restrained in a rear-facing child safety seat or a forward-facing child safety seat according to the provisions of R.S. 32:295. A child at least five years of age or older is only authorized to be a passenger on a motorcycle if such child is properly seated on the motorcycle and such child is wearing a safety helmet in accordance with the provisions of R.S. 32:190.
Louisiana statute RS 32:191.1 stipulates the following regarding Lane Usage:
All motorcycles are entitled to full use of a lane and no motor vehicle shall be driven in such manner as to deprive any motorcycle of the full use of a lane. This Subsection shall not apply to motorcycles operated two abreast in a single lane.
The operator of a motorcycle shall not overtake and pass in the same lane occupied by the vehicle being overtaken.
No person shall operate a motorcycle between lanes of traffic or between adjacent lines or rows of vehicles.
Motorcycles shall not be operated more than two abreast in a single lane.
Laws on Footrests and Handlebars
Louisiana statute RS 32:191.3 stipulates the following regarding Footrests and Handlebars:
Any motorcycle carrying a passenger, other than in a sidecar or enclosed cab, shall be equipped with footrests for such passenger.
No person shall operate any motorcycle with handlebars that require the hands of the operator to be above the operator’s shoulder height when the operator is sitting astride the seat and the operator’s hands are on the handlebar grips.
Eye Protection Devices and Windshields
Louisiana statute RS 32:190.1 deals with Eye Protective Devices and Windshields:
No person shall operate a motorcycle or motor driven cycle unless the person is wearing an eye protective device of a type approved for such use by the secretary, except when the motorcycle or motor driven cycle is equipped with a windshield of sufficient height to afford adequate eye protection that meets the requirements of R.S. 32:358.
The secretary shall approve only goggles, face shields, or safety glasses which will meet performance specifications established by him.
Eye protective devices used at night shall not be tinted.
This Section shall not apply to persons riding within an enclosed cab.
Any person who violates any provision of this Section shall upon conviction be fined fifty dollars which shall include all costs of court. Notwithstanding any contrary provision of law, no other cost or fee shall be assessed against any person for a violation of this Section.
Louisiana statute RS 32:303 deals with Headlamps:
Every motorcycle and every motor-driven cycle shall be equipped with at least one and not more than two headlamps which shall comply with the requirements and limitations of this Chapter.
Every headlamp upon every motor vehicle, including every motorcycle and motordriven cycle, shall be located at a height, measured from the center of the headlamp, of not more than 54 inches nor less than 24 inches to be measured as set forth in R.S. 32:302.
(1) Every headlamp described in this Section shall emit a white light only, including light emitted by white high intensity discharge forward lighting.
(2) No motor vehicle shall be equipped with headlamps that are off-road colored lights.
Wearing Motorcycle Helmets
Louisiana statute RS 32: 190* deals with Safety Helmets:
No person shall operate or ride upon any motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, or motorized bicycle unless the person is equipped with and is wearing on the head a safety helmet of the type and design manufactured for use by operators of such vehicles, which shall be secured properly with a chin strap while the vehicle is in motion. All such safety helmets shall consist of lining, padding, visor, and chin strap and shall meet such other specifications as shall be established by the commissioner.
It shall be unlawful to manufacture, sell, or distribute any protective helmet for use by the operator of a motorcycle, motor driven cycle, or motorized bicycle, or for use by the passenger thereon, unless such protective helmet is of a type and specification approved by the commissioner who shall publish a notice of such approval.
Notwithstanding the provisions of this Section, the police authorities of a village, town, city, or parish may issue a permit exempting members of organizations sponsoring, conducting, or participating in parades or other public exhibitions from the provisions of this Section while such members are actually participating in a parade or other public exhibition.
This Section does not apply to a person operating or riding in an autocycle if the vehicle is equipped with supports that meet or exceed the standards for a safety helmet or a rollbar or roll cage. As used in this Subsection, “rollbar” or “roll cage” shall mean supports that will bear the vehicle’s weight and are so designed as to protect the occupants when the vehicle is resting on the supports.
It shall be unlawful to manufacture, sell, or distribute any protective helmet for use by the operator of a motorcycle, motor driven cycle, or motorized bicycle, or for use by the passenger thereon, unless the manufacturer of the protective helmet obtains and maintains liability insurance of not less than one hundred thousand dollars for each occurrence of liability of the manufacturer for fault in the design, materials, or workmanship of the protective helmet. In addition to any other penalty provided in this Section, the commissioner may prohibit the movement, sale, or distribution of any protective helmet if the manufacturer is not covered by insurance as required by this Subsection.
* Louisiana has enacted and repealed motorcycle helmet laws many times. It first adopted an all-rider motorcycle helmet law in 1968, amended it in 1976 to require helmet use only by riders under the age of 18, and re-enacted a universal helmet law in 1982. In 1999, the State amended that law to require helmet use only by motorcyclists under 18 and riders over 18 who did not have a minimum of $10,000 in medical insurance coverage. In 2004, Louisiana reinstated its universal helmet law that required all motorcyclists, riders and passengers, to wear helmets all the time. After the re-instatement, there were significantly fewer fatalities and severe head injuries than when the law was not in effect.
Some Facts about Motorcycle Accidents
- Most motorcycle accidents occur during a short trip associated with shopping, errands, friends, entertainment, or recreation, and usually occur very shortly after the beginning of the trip.
- Fuel system leaks and spills were present in 62% of motorcycle accidents in the post-crash phase, presenting an unusually high risk of fire not present in other types of motor vehicle accidents.
- The majority of the accident-involved motorcycle drivers are male (96%); female motorcycle passengers are significantly overrepresented in the accident data.
- The motorcycle riders involved in accidents are essentially without training; 92% were self-taught or learned from family or friends.
- Motorcycle riders without a motorcycle license, without any license, or with a license that was revoked are significantly overrepresented in motorcycle accidents.
- Half of the injuries to motorcyclists are to the ankle-foot, lower leg, knee, and thigh-upper leg.
- The use of the safety helmet is the single most critical factor in the prevention of reduction of head injury.
- Less than 10% of motorcycle riders involved in accidents had insurance of any kind to provide medical care or replace property.